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The University of Southampton

Professor Nicholas Harvey appointed Director of Medical Research Council Lifecourse Epidemiology Centre

Published: 25 January 2023
Professor Nicholas Harvey

Professor Nicholas Harvey has been appointed Director of the Medical Research Council Lifecourse Epidemiology Centre (MRC LEC) at the University of Southampton. He takes over the role from Professor Cyrus Cooper on 1 April 2023, following a global search for a world leading Directorial successor.

Professor Harvey, Professor of Rheumatology and Clinical Epidemiology at the University of Southampton, has contributed scientific leadership to work at Southampton MRC investments for almost two decades, serving as MRC LEC Deputy Director since 2019.

Within the MRC LEC, he leads an MRC programme, using a lifecourse approach to the epidemiology, determinants and prevention of osteoporotic fractures. He is Chair of the International Osteoporosis Foundation Committee of Scientific Advisors, a former Trustee of the UK Royal Osteoporosis Society (ROS) and was inaugural Vice-Chair of the ROS Osteoporosis and Bone Research Academy. He is Musculoskeletal Lead for the UK Biobank Imaging Working Group, and a Fellow of the Association of Physicians of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research. He has won many national and international prizes, most recently the International Osteoporosis Foundation Medal of Achievement. He is an investigator on >£50m grant funding, has published over 400 articles.

Professor Harvey's research achievements are many and varied, including greater understanding of the role of vitamin D supplementation in pregnancy for offspring bone development, impacting on UK and international public health policy; leadership of the bone and body composition component of the UK Biobank Imaging Study; comprehensive characterisation of fracture epidemiology in the UK and Europe; and development of novel approaches to fracture risk assessment and screening; with his research findings informing clinical guidelines in both the UK and internationally.

Professor Harvey said: “It is a great honour to be appointed as the next Director of the MRC Lifecourse Epidemiology Centre at the University of Southampton. I am hugely grateful to the MRC and the University for supporting my academic career over many years, and I am absolutely delighted to be afforded this opportunity, as Director, to work with amazing colleagues to further develop the world-class research undertaken at the Centre.”

Professor Cyrus Cooper

Professor Cooper joined the MRC Environmental Epidemiology Unit in 1985 as a Research Fellow and following a return from the May Clinic, led the Southampton MRC investment since 2003, having been appointed initially as Director of the MRC Epidemiology Resource Centre, which he expanded as the MRC Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit. Under his leadership, the MRC LEC, and forerunning LEU and ERC, have been at the global forefront of epidemiological research into chronic noncommunicable musculoskeletal diseases such as osteoporosis, osteoarthritis and sarcopenia. The resulting discovery science has widely informed national and international policy, including close collaborations with bodies such as the World Health Organisation.

Professor Cooper will continue as a senior scientist at the LEC and said: “It has been an immense privilege to serve as Director of three successive MRC investments at the University of Southampton and to demit at the helm of the world leading MRC Lifecourse Epidemiology Centre. I am so grateful to my friends and colleagues in the Centre, without whose skills, ideas, hard work and unstinting dedication, we would not have been able to prosecute world-class discovery science, or to make such a real difference to both clinical care and public health policy for noncommunicable musculoskeletal diseases. It is a joy to pass the baton to Professor Harvey, a valued colleague and a truly internationally leading clinical academic in our field, and I very much look forward to the Centre’s future scientific achievements.”

Professor Diana Eccles, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, added: “I am hugely grateful to Professor Cooper for his fantastic leadership of world-class science in Southampton over the last three decades and for all that he has contributed to the Faculty of Medicine and University as a whole. I am delighted that we have been able to identify another internationally leading scientist as his successor and wish Professor Harvey all the very best as he continues to develop the globally competitive research undertaken at the MRC Lifecourse Epidemiology Centre.”

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